How should my saddle pad fit under my saddle?
Finally! A question with a simple answer! Your saddle pad should fit up and away from your horse’s spine and withers. All the time. With all types of saddles (yes western) and all types of saddle pads (doesn’t matter the color or thickness!)
Let’s do an experiment - Put the spine of a saddle pad over your outstretched leg and gently tug down on it. This mimics the saddle pad laying on your horse’s spine and wither directly. Now try and bend your knee and move it up a bit. This mimics your horse’s spine trying to lift as you ask him to move forward. Your knee will have a lot of resistance, and won’t be able to bend so far.
In this experiment, your knee becomes your horse's spine and withers.
Now keep the spine of the saddle pad an inch or more off of your knee. Now you have tons of room to bend your knee, just as your horse’s spine and withers now have somewhere to go as you start to ride.
A horse must be able to use his back when being ridden. The back and withers lift so that the hind legs can come under his body and do their job. This is true for polo ponies, dressage horses, western pleasure horses, you name it. This action of lifting the back creates a round, strong top line on your horse and allows for maximum comfort under the saddle. Your horse must be able to lift into an open space, not a saddle pad squishing him down.
In a nutshell:
If your saddle doesn’t allow this, time for your saddle fitter to pay a visit. You may also want to switch to a thinner pad if possible. Resist the urge to add more saddle pads - this is like adding more socks to a shoe that is too tight! I like saddle pads that have a contoured top, these fit nicely into your saddle’s gullet! Some saddle pads even have cutouts for the wither area.
Saddle pads that mimic the shape of a horse's wither are the most comfortable for your horse!
This western saddle pad has a countoured wither for maximum comfort!
You may also find that your horse starts his exercise looking perfect, but when you get back to the barn the saddle pad has had a party under the saddle and probably invited some friends. It’s a hot mess under there, and this is also a sign your saddle and pad combo needs some adjustment - most likely the saddle!
The way to roll.
Thoughts? Questions? Tips of your own? Share!